Clyde sent me a reading recommendation – 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by Wiliam Alexander. It’s the year-long journey of a man trying to make the perfect loaf of bread.
I was a bit leery. I’ve read quite a few of these “set yourself a journey” books in the last few years. Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, Tolstoy & the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch – to name a few. While mostly enjoyable, it started to feel like a fad to set yourself a year-long challenge and then write a book about it. And I was a little worried that after about 8 weeks of bread baking, I’d be ready to toss the book in a 550-degree oven. But I’ve never gotten an unsatisfactory reading recommendation from Clyde (well, except for that Death by Rhubarb), so I picked up Loaves and read it through.
It was quite nice. Just about the time you never wanted to hear about air holes and crumb texture again, the author would veer off on a related (or not so related) topic such as the history of pellagra, the maker of the Quik Lock – that little plastic bit that hold a bread bag closed, building an oven in his backyard, a trip through the streets of Morocco. He does eventually make what he considers a perfect loaf; interestingly enough it’s when he ends up teaching some monks in France how to bake. And then at the end of the year he realizes that his single-minded pursuit of that loaf of bread had really kept him from enjoying his kitchen and lets it go.
I used to make more bread. I have several bread cookbooks and even two bread machines (long story) but these days, bread just doesn’t get eaten fast enough around here. One of my favorites is a thick, moist oatmeal bread but YA doesn’t like it much and I can’t eat it fast enough before it spoils. Maybe I should just find a neighbor that I can foist a half loaf on every time I bake!
Any bread stories out there? Make your own or have a favorite bread bakery? Knead by hand or with a dough hook?